What better way to learn about the parts of a sunflower, than to dissect one with your kids. Exploring science hands-on is a great way for kids of all ages to learn about the world around them. Learn how to identify the different parts of a sunflower in this interactive science activity!
This science exploration is perfect for kids of all ages. Young children including toddlers can do this dissection along with older children. Even as an adult, I learned new information about sunflowers by looking up close at the different parts!
- Middle School
Older children can dive deeper into the functions of the different structures of a sunflower. There are endless opportunities throughout this exploration to learn about the parts of a plant.
Younger kids can participate throughout the entire activity, but some of the science is better suited for older kids.
Now, the best thing about hands-on science activities is that it is okay if some of the topics are beyond the understanding of a young child. Young kids can still participate in the learning process.
My toddler did not fully understand the different parts of the flower, but I still explained what the parts were anyway. Its never to young to start exploring nature together!
The basic parts of a sunflower are a great place to start if you are doing this with young children. Older children who are ready to learn about the specific parts of a sunflower can benefit from the advance vocabulary.
|Disk Flowers||Ray Flowers|
Free Sunflower Diagrams
The basic free cut and paste sunflower diagram can be used before or after your kids dissect the flower. Designed with young learners in mind, the basic parts of a sunflower are included. Simply print off the diagram, cut out the name of the parts, and use glue to attach them to the correct spot.
Or kids can use a pencil and write the parts in the correct spots and use the words along the bottom as a word bank. Directions for how to access the worksheet can be found at the bottom of this post.
Older kids will be ready to move on the more complex structures that make up a sunflower. Diagrams found in a quick google search, are great resources for your kids. Even some books about flowers will have diagrams for older children.
Selecting a Sunflower to Observe
If possible, pick out a stem that has several flower heads in different stages of development. A flower bud, open flower, and one forming seeds are great stages to observe together. Bonus if you can show them a flower head with pollen covering the stigmas!
Of course, use what you can find. If you are close by to a local farm or garden center you might be able to purchase a few locally grown sunflowers. Grocery stores or flower shops also sell them depending on the time of year.
If you are looking to dissect a sunflower that is forming seeds, you will need to find a dried sunflower head. I let one sunflower in my garden go to seed so I could observe it. To do that, simply leave a sunflower uncut outside for weeks after the petals have fallen off.
Forming seeds takes time, but waiting for a sunflower to make seeds is worth the wait!
In the photo above, you can see the individual flowers that make up the large flower head. If a seed is forming, that means the flower was pollinated.
Stalk, Stem, and Leaves
There is more to be seen than just the flower head during this activity. Stalks, stems, and leaves provide wonderful learning opportunities for your kids. Observe the texture of the parts, how the leaves are attached to the stem, and the thickness of the stalk.
Questions to Explore
- Why is the stalk so rigid and thick?
- How are large leaves beneficial to the plant?
- How come the leaves have a scratchy texture?
- Are the leaves attached in a specific pattern?
Of course, those are just a few ideas. Your kids will come up with the best questions if you give them time to make observations.
Kids may think a sunflower is only one flower, but the flower head is made up of hundreds of individual flowers! If pollinated, each flower will produce a seed, which explains why there are so many seeds in one large sunflower head.
As your kids pull apart the flower, they will be able to see the individual flowers. Older children will notice the brightly colored petals are actually individual flowers that do not produce seeds. Where as the center of the head is made up of flowers that can produce seeds.
Flower dissections are a wonderful hands-on way to learn about pollination and seed formation. Even if your kids did not plant the seed that grew the plant you are observing, they can still learn about its life cycle.
The flower that I dissected was not fully dried. Inside, the seeds were still forming. This stage in the process is still fascinating for kids to observe. Provide them with some fully mature sunflower seeds to show them what the final result would look like.
You can even discuss the roots if you are able to pull an actual sunflower plant out of the ground. A great way to do this activity is to plant sunflower seeds and observe the growth through the entire life cycle. Of course that is not always an option and is not 100% necessary!
Sunflowers have a taproot which is why they are able to support themselves. These annuals can grow up to ten feet tall and need a strong stem and root system in order to grow to tall heights.
Starting the Activity
Before breaking the flower into its different parts, have your children observe an intact flower. Record drawings and written observations in a nature notebook.
- Describe the texture of the leaves
- How the leaves attach to the stem
- Explain what the plant smells like
- Describe the pattern that makes up the flowers
- Use a microscope to get a closer look at the parts
Discuss what you see together. You can make this part as formal or as informal as you would like! Let your kids questions and observations guide your next step.
Breaking Apart the Flower Head
Now the fun part, breaking open the large head to see the individual parts. A knife is not necessary, as the flower breaks apart easily with your hands. Kids love pulling apart the different flowers to hunt for seeds. If you are lucky, your plant will have seeds in different stages of development.
As you observe, kids can draw illustrations and write observations in their notebook. Looking at a diagram is helpful, but seeing the parts first hand is what they will remember most.
Observe a few mature sunflower seeds along with ones that are still developing. When questions come up, write them down or look up the answer on the spot. Sometimes the best questions come up while conducting an activity.
Inside the Stalk
While you break open the sunflower, peal the stem in half as well. Kids can see what the inside of a stem looks and feels like. If they have ever seen inside of a flower stem, they will notice that a sunflower stalk looks a little different.
Inside they may find hollow spots, different colors, and different textures. Use a microscope to get a closer look.
Maybe you are learning about photosynthesis and how plants produce their own food. If so, your kids will know that the stem plays an important role in moving water and nutrients through a plant.
Your kids may also notice that they stem along with the leaves look almost furry. Getting a closer look is a great way to practice making observations. There is so much science to learn just from one sunflower plant!
I hope this post provided you with ideas and inspiration to get you excited about exploring sunflowers with your kids. Don't forget to download your copy of the parts of a sunflower diagram below.
Let us know in the comments, have you ever done a sunflower dissection with your kids?
These printables were created by Nature Inspired Learning and are for personal use only in your home or classroom. They are designed to be a tool that can be used for early learning success. All of these free sunflower printables are for non-commercial use. Have questions, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org